`Affluenza’----the disease 'for more’

This is incurable

Tajamul Hussain
Srinagar, Publish Date: Dec 13 2017 10:24PM | Updated Date: Dec 13 2017 10:24PM
`Affluenza’----the disease 'for more’Representational Pic

The disease ‘affluenza’ is derived from the word "affluence," meaning an abundant flow and abundance of property. ‘Affluenza’, a portmanteau of ‘affluence’ and ‘influenza’, is a kind of psychiatric disorder caused due to the ‘wealth-seeking’ frenzy found in the consumerist societies. It’s a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overloaded debt, epidemic anxiety, overwork and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more. The disease can’t be quantified easily and is symptomatic of a culture that holds up financial success as one of the highest achievements. Those of us that suffer from ‘affluenza’, buy into the advertisers' manipulative messages of artificial needs that are targeted at to promote/shape consumer culture and to seek to condition us to fulfil our hopes for success, power, and happiness, personal worth etcetera. We’re left with little time to enjoy family and friends, participate in our community, or nurture ourselves intellectually, culturally, or spiritually. The upshot: alienation, emptiness, debt, failed marriages and family relationships grow rampant. Although the disease manifests itself in a variety of ways, it often produces a behavior characterized by reckless borrowing and insatiable consumption.

People said to be affected by ‘affluenza’ typically find that the very economic success they’ve been so vigorously chasing ends up leaving them feeling unfulfilled and wishing for yet more wealth. Prizing of endless increases in material wealth causes the feelings of worthlessness and dissatisfaction rather than the experiences of 'better life'. An insatiable hunger for worldly possessions dominates time and thoughts. ‘Affluenza’ infected aspirants often experience guilt, lack of purpose and dissolute behavior, as well as obsession detriment of their personal relationships and to feelings of happiness. Because they’re oblivious to their condition, continued borrowing and spending are apt to lead the disease to its most serious phase, the "insolvency". Many victims succumb to the disease, though the condition is treatable. Early diagnosis can promote a highly efficacious response. Curtailing high-risk activities, for example, can nonetheless, reduce the infection and – sometimes – restore the infected host to an asymptomatic state known as "solvency". Growing awareness of risks posed by ‘affluenza’ can inspire a gradual return to saving and repaying debts.

The great Indian liberalized economic machine turned the common Indian into more ‘Americum’ in outlook and aspirations, more sophisticated and liberal in lifestyle and attitudes, and certainly more adventurous and demanding in terms of holiday and leisure activities. The epidemic sweeping isn’t our typical virus, but rather a highly contagious disease of epidemic overconsumption. The symptoms include compulsive shopping, high debt, overwork, inability to delay gratification, a sense of entitlement, obsession with externals and "having-it-all," wastefulness, and stress. If America is a unit of energy, then ‘Americum’ is any group of 350 million people with a per capita income above $18000 and a growing penchant for consumption. Assuming it as the metric to watch how many ‘Americums’ are taking shapes all over the planet, China seems to have given birth to one ‘Americum’ now and has another due in some years. India has one now and another is also due by 2030. Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Korea, and Japan constitute another ‘Americum’. ‘Affluenza’, the bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling (resulting from efforts to keep up with the Joneses) is the mad pursuit of the American Dream. The American style of living, the American style cars, the American style fast food and the American style of garbage creation seem to have caught the world with the American ‘affluenza’.

‘Affluenza’ places a high value on money, possessions, appearances (physical and social) and fame. Fame is pretty darn fun; once a by-product of success, now, fame itself has become the entire goal, the manner in which the ‘famous’ achieve their fame is irrelevant. Who wouldn’t want fabulous vacations, designer clothes, and constant adoration? Greater incidence of ‘affluenza’ is the result of 'Selfish Capitalism' and its increasing nature the result of material inequality. ‘Bullock capitalists’ from villages/countryside husband their land sources carefully and benefit from state subsidies for agriculture, hefty compensation paid for the sale of land to industrial/infrastructure projects and finally reservations. Others include millions of nouveau riche, fly-by-night operators, shopkeepers, small-time entrepreneurs, property agents, semiskilled industrial and service workers and lower level salaried households, where the combined income of husband and wife generates a disposable income substantially. In an upwardly mobile world where grownups chase power, ambition, and money, with money predominating, children are increasingly deciding how the cash is spent and on what….leading to a war whose only Hiroshima is a Toblerone, a Barbie or a Baskin Robbins.

In our spending spree (and status display) we rather fall in debt-trap than compromise on having a huge palatial house, yet when our average family is smaller. We work longer, spare less time for families, are averse to living simply, saving more money, spending less, avoiding impulse spending, not using a credit card to fall into debt, sticking to the realistic budget, not buying more house, car, and gizmos than you can comfortably afford. The culture of evasion and dishonesty, based on the myopic assumption that short-term personal gain, even if illegitimate, doesn’t affect long-term prosperity, pervades our thinking. While we always attempt to give an ideological justification for this willingness to avoid social obligations, the social stigma attached to socially illegitimate behavior has largely vanished. We have no qualms about our wrongdoings. Perhaps ‘affluenza’ is the main reason for rampant scams here and there, hawala transactions, and money laundering, over-invoicing, capital flight outside India, unbridled greed and unscrupulousness of the empowered. The old notion of living within your means is buried under an avalanche of plastic card–the number of Indians carrying credit card cards has quadrupled since 2001. By 2015, affluent class in India spent $ 14.4 billion on shopping ($5.6billion in 2005). In a generation, India will surpass Germany as the world’s fifth-biggest consumer market. The rapid spread of this contagion is a serious problem with dire consequences.


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